Calgary pet rescue organizations in ‘crisis,’ say city officials, with shelters at-capacity

Calgary officials say animal welfare organizations across the city “are in crisis,” with animal surrenders up, adoptions down and many animals in need of care.

The city released a statement Wednesday — in conjunction with the Calgary Humane Society and the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS) — saying because of those factors, pet shelters, humane societies and rescue shelters are now full.

The Calgary Humane Society’s shelter is focusing on emergency intakes as it’s overcapacity with a wait list and a backlog for surrender requests.

“We’re just collectively seeing a huge increase in the number of animals that need our help right now,” said Anna-Lee Rieb, who is in charge of animal adoptions at the humane society, in an interview on the Calgary Eyeopener.

AARCS executive director Deanna Thompson said staff have seen a 200 per cent increase in the number of people looking to surrender their pets. 

The organization is also dealing with an outbreak of distemper in dogs at the shelter, so it hasn’t been able to accept any dogs for two weeks. It’s also at capacity for cats and rabbits.

“We are reaching out to Calgarians to consider adopting a pet now, or if they can’t adopt, to consider fostering an animal in their home to help relieve the pressure for the shelter,” she said.

Throughout the pandemic, many pet rescue organizations noticed an uptick in adoptions as people stayed at home.

Some people are now facing tough financial situations, or a problematic work schedule, which is causing them to surrender their animals, Rieb said. Some are also dealing with pets who are more reactive or fearful than normal.

“We are seeing a lot of COVID dogs come through [with] really challenging behaviours, complex behaviours as a result of maybe being under socialized or not getting adequate training during that pandemic time,” Rieb said.

Both the Calgary Humane Society and AARCS have a lot of rabbits in need of homes. (Calgary Humane Society/Twitter)

Those animals are also adding additional pressures on staff because the problematic pets require more support to rehabilitate. 

“It really comes down to capacity for care,” Rieb said.

“Our human resources, our volunteer resources, our financial resources and all of these pressure points that we’re experiencing do put a strain on what we’re able to do as an organization.”

Both the humane society and AARCS are allowing potential pet owners to choose their own adoption fee.

The city is encouraging pet owners to try to work through any issues before resorting to surrendering their animal. 

It’s also temporarily suspending the city cat trapping program, where cats roaming off their owner’s property are humanely caught, and reinstating dog adoptions by appointment-only until the crisis subsides.

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